Coconut oil, one of the few saturated-fat vegetable oils, has had an interesting journey in our food system. It was used extensively in processed food prior to the 1980’s until it was characterized a “bad fat” and became a victim of the fat-free philosophy. We now know fats are essential for health and coconut oil has made a comeback.
I regularly use coconut oil in my house and enjoy a teaspoon in my coffee each morning. After 15 years of using it both internally and externally I have seen the benefits and keep a jar in the kitchen and in the medicine cabinet. It is added to the dog and cat meals most days and used topically for skin eruptions and wounds.
When purchasing jars of coconut oil keep in mind that not all are created equal. There are two main types:
Refined: Refined coconut oil is usually the least expensive option and may be labeled RBD, Bleached and Deodorized. It is made from dried coconut kernels or dried coconut meat that is treated to remove impurities. Refined coconut oil is less nutritious than unrefined and is usually made with lower quality coconut. The chemicals chlorine and hexane are commonly used in the refining process.
Unrefined: Often referred to as virgin, unrefined coconut oil is made from fresh coconuts pressed without the use of chemical solvents. Unrefined coconut oil retains most of the nutrients found in fresh coconut.
Coconut oil is solid and white at 75 degrees or below and a transparent liquid above. A good quality oil is colorless when liquid and pure white when solid. It should not contain any residue or have a rancid odor. My preference is to purchase coconut oil in glass rather than plastic.
There are two exceptions to coconut oil solidifying at 75 degrees: hydrogenated coconut oil which is sold as a soap ingredient and should not be used as food because it contains harmful trans-fats; and fractionated coconut oil which is used as a massage oil and cosmetic ingredient.
Coconut oil can be added to your pets’ meals or given to them as a treat from the spoon. Use 1 teaspoon per 10 pounds of body weight up to a maximum of 1 tablespoon per day. It is important to add coconut oil to the diet slowly. Consuming too much too quickly can cause headache, fatigue, diarrhea and flu-like symptoms. Begin with ¼ of the dosage and increase gradually. If your pet’s stools are loose or greasy cut back the dose temporarily.
Unlike what you may read on the internet from some companies selling coconut oil, it is not a panacea for all health issues but, in moderation, it can be a valuable addition to a varied and healthy diet.